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Interviews

Luis Perdomo: Walking Towards the Light

By Published: May 14, 2012
Perdomo will persist with his own thing. "It's a real good time for me. I can feel real happy doing my own group and playing my own music. Another thing I like about being a bandleader right now is that I don't want to get burned out from going on the road. When I finally want to do my own thing with my trio, I don't want to say, 'No. I don't want to go on the road anymore.' Because going on the road has become real hard lately. Even things you took for granted before, like taking a direct flight that will get you somewhere with enough time to take and nap and then eat and then go to the sound check. Now you've got to take two or three planes. So a lot of the time you've got to go straight from the airport to the gig. Right now there's a lot of that happening, because they have eliminated a lot of direct flights. A lot of the time, to make it work financially, you've got to take cheaper flights. If I'm going to do that with my own group. I want to do that while I still have the energy. While I'm still young. From every point of view, it's a good time for me to do my own group."

Perdomo has been playing professionally since the age of 12 when he got his first paying gig. Getting paid was cool, and he never looked back.

The sound of music came from his home. His father was not a musician, but he played a little piano and started showing his son a few things when he was six. "He realized that I had some talent for it. But it wasn't until I was 10 years old that I seriously began taking piano lessons with a private teacher in Venezuela. Taking harmony lessons and all that stuff. With a real good teacher who is still the main jazz teacher in Caracas. His name is Gerry Weil. He's actually from Austria. He's been in Venezuela for about 55 years. I studied with him for 10 years, from 10 to 20. I came to new York when I was 22."

His father had records of Bud Powell
Bud Powell
Bud Powell
1924 - 1966
piano
, Oscar Peterson
Oscar Peterson
Oscar Peterson
1925 - 2007
piano
, Bobby Timmons
Bobby Timmons
Bobby Timmons
1935 - 1974
piano
. "There was a record my father used to play a lot called Modern Jazz Sextet (Verve, 1956). It's a record with [trumpeter] Dizzy Gillespie
Dizzy Gillespie
Dizzy Gillespie
1917 - 1993
trumpet
and [saxophonist] Sonny Stitt
Sonny Stitt
Sonny Stitt
1924 - 1982
saxophone
. Skeeter Best
Skeeter Best
b.1914
on guitar, John Lewis
John Lewis
John Lewis
b.1920
piano
on piano and Percy Heath
Percy Heath
Percy Heath
1923 - 2005
bass, acoustic
[bass]. Charlie Persip
Charlie Persip
Charlie Persip
b.1929
drums
is the drummer. I lot of my father's records I tried to buy on CD once I came to New York. I still listen to them. There was a Ray Bryant
Ray Bryant
Ray Bryant
1931 - 2011
piano
record that I used to listen to a lot called All Blues (Pablo, 1978) I was very influenced by that one. Another record I used to listen to a lot is The Bobby Timmons Trio In Person; Live at the Village Vanguard (Riverside, 1961). With Ron Carter
Ron Carter
Ron Carter
b.1937
bass
and Albert Heath
Albert Heath
Albert Heath
b.1935
drums
. Those are records my dad was always playing."

His early gigs in Venezuela were salsa music and groove music for the dancers. "Then I played in a traditional Venezuelan music group I did that for two years also. I remember my grades started going down because I was playing music, going to sleep real late when I was 14 or something like that. When I was 15, I got my first jazz gig in a hotel in Venezuela. That only lasted for nine or 10 months. The next big break that I had was when I was 18. I became the house pianist in Caracas at this jazz club, called Juan Sebastian Bar. I did that for three-and-a-half years." He played jazz six days a week. "That was a real big break for me."

Luis Perdomo Focus PointJuan Sebastian Bar was a place where the better jazz musicians would hang. When American musicians were touring, they'd stop there. "I met Pharoah Sanders
Pharoah Sanders
Pharoah Sanders
b.1940
saxophone
, David Kikoski
David Kikoski
David Kikoski
b.1961
piano
, James Genus
James Genus
James Genus
b.1966
bass
. Since then I've been friends with them. There was a trio from Brazil, called the Zimbo Trio. It was a fantastic trio that played traditional Brazilian music. They did a double bill with us. We did double bills with Chucho Valdes
Chucho Valdes
Chucho Valdes
b.1941
piano
and his group. Gonzalo Rubalcaba
Gonzalo Rubalcaba
Gonzalo Rubalcaba
b.1963
piano
. That's where I met all those guys.

Perdomo didn't get any formal institutional music education. He first came to New York to visit a friend who played trumpet. He visited a couple times. The second time, a friend told him about auditions for the Manhattan School of music that were going on. There was a friend of mine who was a trumpet player. He had family in New Jersey. He was the first one to tell me I should get a Visa and go to New York and hang out. I saved my money for a year. We went to New York. I was 19. After that, I came again, by myself. Just to hang out, buy CDs, see music, then go back to Venezuela. At that time a friend of mine who was here [New York], a musician from Venezuela, told me 'Why don't you audition for the Manhattan School of Music.' By chance, I was there during the audition period."


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